Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Marvels (Brian Selznick)

I was going to read this book months ago. I had borrowed it from the library and it was in my car when my car was stolen! Fortunately, car thieves tend to ignore books and I got it back. I returned it to the library and it took a few months to get it again.

I love this book!! Brian Selznick has done something amazing again. He seems to have a thing about theatre, runaways, history and French. 

This story is based on a real story - someone who tried to save stories, like the characters in this story. One interesting thing was that the real person this story was based on was greatly influenced by Peter Ackroyd's writing! 

I love the touch of French, the quest to learn about a family's past, and although it seems like a little thing, the gold edges on the pages. It is a beautiful story!

Goodreads summary:

Caldecott Award winner and bookmaking trailblazer Brian Selznick once again plays with the form he invented and takes readers on a voyage!

Two seemingly unrelated stories--one in words, the other in pictures--come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Spark (John J. Ratey, MD)

On p. 245, the author says: personally, researching this book has we doubled my enthusiasm for the benefits of exercise and replaced intuition with hard, scientific fact.

Me too!

Research consistently  shows the more fit you are, the more I resilient your brain becomes and the better it functions both cognitively and psychologically. If you get your body in shape, your mind will follow.

He advises readers to do a varied incident intensity of walking, jogging, running, and sprinting. In broad strokes, then, I think the best advice is to follow our ancestors routine; walk or jog every day, run a couple times a week, and then go for the kill every now and then by sprinting.

He suggests doing aerobic exercise 6 days of the week for 45 minutes to an hour. Four of those days should be on the longer side, I'm at moderate intensity, and two on the shorter side, and high-intensity. On the shorter high-intensity days, include some form of strength and resistance training. These day should not be back to back.

He opens up the book by talking about these concepts in schools. I really want to investigate this further and figure out how I can implement it in my classroom.

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Handful of Stars (Cynthia Lord)

You know those kid movies that have lines that just the adult get? Kids an parents both often rave about those movies.

This book is like that. It would be be great one to read with your favorite child.

Lily's mother died when she was two and now she lives with her grandparents. There is so much she doesn't know about her mother. Her friendship with Salma, a girl just there for th summer to work in the fields, gives me her experiences that give her new insights into her mother.

P. 110 I wonder sometimes, if time travel were real and I could magically go back and meet her when she was my age, would we like each other? I've always been scare that I'd like her, but she wouldn't like me back. She'd think I was boring.

Favorite quotes:

P. 113 I wish that book (Blueberries for Sal by Rob McCloskey) were real, except for the bear parts. I wish Mama could just turn around and realize she'd gone too far ahead without me. Then she'd turn around and find me.

Personal Growth
Being in the pageant and painting the bee houses is proving a point: you can be anything you want to be.
P. 151 what I love about art is that anything is possible. Bees can be pink. Trees can be purple it's like taking the world as it is and then swirling it around to show how it could be.

P. 121 Sometimes understanding comes in little drops, and other times it rushes in like the tide, rolling everything over as it comes.

P. 125 Hannah and I had been two peas in a pod for a long time, but she had left that pod first.
Now I had, too.

Personal growth: she discovers she is a flower, not a weed....a Tigerlilly....just like her mother named her.

She discovers she needs to "put the template away and just paint freely".

P. 170 That"s something we could learn from dogs, isn't it? They don't keep looking backward at what they've lost or asking, 'why me?' They just move on and find a new way to be happy again."

P. 170 Giving up is admitting you're beat and walking away. Letting go means you're setting something free. You're releasing something that's been keeping you stuck. That takes faith and more than a little courage.

I love that Lilly's family is French Camadian.

P. 128 She wanted to show everyon that French Canadian girls were as good as anybody else.
"It's hard to imagine anyone felt that way about French Canadians."
Pepere nodded. "Time change. And it's good that they do. But it only happens if someone is brave enough to be first."

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tiptop Cat (C Roger Mader)

A simple, yet compelling story. The story runs from left to right right over on to the right hand page. You can really sense the cat's adventurous tendencies. It reminded me of stories of my dog escaping out of the sunroof and getting picked up. Oh, silly pets!

This story kept everyone's attention and had them meowing along the way. :)

A curious cat plus a big fall leads to squashed confidence. How this cat bounces back will encourage readers everywhere to try, try again. Eye-catching art and crisp graphic paneling invite even the youngest of children to get back on their feet to explore the city alongside TipTop Cat. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Bureau of Misplaced Dads (Eric Veille)

I didn't really like this book. It reminds me of the trend in the world to portray men as bumbling idiots. I wondered if it was a commentary on dead beat dads. The whole story just made me a little uncomfortable.

Goodreads summary:

When a boy's father goes missing, he looks for him at The Bureau of Misplaced Dads, where at least 20 or 30 dads wander in every day and wait for their kids to fetch them. There are bearded dads, a dad named Michael and even a Super Dad, but none of them belong to the boy. He is about to lose hope when he suddenly remembers what he and his father were playing just before the disappearance. Like the best dads, this book is a little bit kooky and a whole lot of fun. (less)

Grandfather Tang's Story

Great for teaching tangrams. Good connection between literature and math.

Goodreads summary:

Illus. in full color. "Drawing on a Chinese form of storytelling with seven
shapes cut from a square of paper, Tompert recounts the tale of two fox
fairies. Parker's pen-and-watercolor art adds drama, while the tangram insets
will motivate children to try their own versions. Ingenious."-- "Bulletin, 
Center for Children's Books."

Equal Schmequal

Great visuals for teaching the concept of equality.

Goodreads summary:

What does it mean to be equal? Mouse and her friends want to play tug-of-war but they can't figure out how to make teams that are equal. Nothing works until Mouse starts thinking mathematically. Wonderful illustrations capture Mouse and her animal friends from whiskers to tails.

Mad Scientist Academy - The Dinosaur Disaster

This will be perfect for my future palentologists. One student was just mentioning yesterday that he plans to become one! I probably won't use this one as a read aloud. It will be a good addition to our library corner, nonetheless.

Will definitely look for more book by this author though. We are CRAZY about graphic novels in our classroom.

Goodreads summary: 

Enroll in Dr. Cosmic’s class of clever monsters at the Mad Scientist Academy as they solve the greatest challenges in science, in this perfect blend of adventure and exploration—it’s the Magic School Bus for a new generation.
Welcome to Mad Scientist Academy! The first day of school is always exciting, and Dr. Cosmic’s new students can’t wait to get started. After their teacher reveals that their school pet, Oscar, is a dinosaur, they quickly realize Dr. Cosmic has an unusual teaching style. To find Oscar, the class has to follow the clues through the realistic dinosaur exhibit Dr. Cosmic designed and built over the summer. But when a malfunction causes the robotic dinosaurs to come alive, this prehistoric exhibit feels a little too real!
With a mad genius for a teacher, things don’t always go as planned. Armed with high-tech handbooks and the scientific method, Dr. Cosmic’s class is ready to solve their way out of any disaster.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Mattoo, Let's Play! (Irene Luxbacher)

A simple story, but great starting point for a friendship discussion. The main character in the story seems to not realize that she is too boisterous and adventurous for her cat. We talked about how when you want to be friends with them you have to see things from their perspective and consider playing games that they are comfortable with.

The illustrations in this book a beautiful! They are black and white and very bold, with just a bit of colour. Loved the book.

Goodreads summary:

Ruby can't understand why her cat, Mattoo, never wants to play. Ruby is good-natured but is perhaps too boisterous. Will Mattoo ever want to play with Ruby? Will Ruby ever win Mattoo's affection? With striking acrylic illustrations, Mattoo, Let's Play! is a visually rich story that shows how playing carefully and gently with a pet can make all the difference.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Star Wars: Jedi Academy (Jeffrey Brown)

One of my students gave me this book to read. I commented that I had seen those books a lot on blogs I follow and on twitter and I was curious about the phenomenon. He gave it to me to read. Unfortunately, it got put in a pile of stuff and I forgot about it. The other day he asked me, "Hey, did you read my Star Wars book?" I hadn't even clued in that it was a Star Wars book. I found it in the pile and told him I'd read it right away.

It's a really quick read - graphic novel and all. I sometimes have trouble reading graphic novels because often the pictures tell a lot and I tend to skim over them quickly.

Here's my confession: I'm not a Star Wars fan. Never watched the movies. Never watched it on TV. Never. I know. It's blasphemous to some. It just isn't my thing.

This book really wasn't my thing either. It was kind of painful, to tell you the truth. I totally blame that on my lack of Star Wars knowledge and love. However, I can see where those who really love Star Wars would love this book! I'm glad I read it. I might be able to maintain a little more of a Star Wars conversation now. Still not going to watch Star Wars though. :)

New York Times bestselling author/illustrator Jeffrey Brown takes readers to a middle school in a galaxy far, far away...

This incredible, original story captures all of the humor, awkwardness, fun, and frustrations of middle school--all told through one boy's comics, journal entries, letters, doodles, and newspaper clippings. The setting? A galaxy far, far away...

Roan's one dream is to leave home and attend Pilot Academy like his older brother, father, and grandfather. But just as Roan is mysteriously denied entrance to Pilot School, he is invited to attend Jedi Academy--a school that he didn't apply to and only recruits children when they are just a few years old. That is, until now...

This inventive novel follows Roan's first year at Jedi Academy where, under the tutelage of Master Yoda, he learns that he possesses more strength and potential than he could have ever dreamed. Oh, and he learns other important things too--like how to make a baking soda volcano, fence with a lightsaber, slow dance with a girl, and lift boulders with the Force.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Coriander the Contrary Hen (Dori Chaconas)

Funny story! We had a good discussion about what contrary means and people that are contrarians. Prior to reading it I asked if they knew what it meant. Some had a bit of an idea. After we read it we talked about it again and the ideas were pretty strong then because there are so many examples in the story.

Who would have ever thought a chicken could be a contrarian?!

We read this book on Tumblebooks.

Goodreads summary:

Coriander is a contrary, stubborn hen, with a mind of her own. When she decides to plant herself in the middle of the road causing a chaotic traffic jam of cars, trucks, and buses, Farmer Bucket and Mrs. Bucket can't get Coriander to budge. Little Fanny Bucket finally uses a bit of reverse psychology to get her way. But will Coriander have the last laugh?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Waiting (Kevin Henkes)

This is a beautiful story about waiting and not worrying about what is next. Just waiting and enjoying the wait. Great story to help you focus on mindfulness and keeping peace in your life. Simple illustrations and muted colors add to the beauty of this book. I thought it might be too "babyish" for my grade 3 students, but they loved it.

Goodreads Summary:

What are you waiting for? An owl, a puppy, a bear, a rabbit, and a pig—all toys arranged on a child's windowsill—wait for marvelous things to happen in this irresistible picture book by the New York Times–bestselling and Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes.

Five friends sit happily on a windowsill, waiting for something amazing to happen. The owl is waiting for the moon. The pig is waiting for the rain. The bear is waiting for the wind. The puppy is waiting for the snow. And the rabbit is just looking out the window because he likes to wait! What will happen? Will patience win in the end? Or someday will the friends stop waiting and do something unexpected?

Waiting is a big part of childhood—waiting in line, waiting to grow up, waiting for something special to happen—but in this book, a child sets the stage and pulls the strings. Timeless, beautiful, and deeply heartfelt, this picture book about imaginative play, the seasons, friendship, and surprises marks a new pinnacle in Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes's extraordinary career.

"The short sentences of the text flow with the precision one would expect from a master picture-book creator like Henkes. Little ones, to whom each experience is new, will know what it's like to dream and wait."—ALA Booklist

Otis and the Puppy (Loren Long)

We have been talking about making connections to stories. I didn't think this would be a great story for that because it is about a tractor on a farm and I have a bunch of city slickers in my class. However, there was a lot they could relate to in this book: playing hide a seek, getting a new puppy, feeling adoration over how cute a puppy is, being afraid of the dark, etc. It was a great read and we had plenty of connections!

Goodreads Summary:

Otis and his farm friends love to play hide-and-seek. Otis especially loves to be "It," finding his friends as they hide. Yet when the newest addition to the farm—a bounding puppy who can't sit still and has a habit of licking faces—tries to hide, he finds his attention wandering and is soon lost in the forest. Night falls and Otis, knowing his new friend is afraid of the dark, sets out to find him. There's just one problem: Otis is also afraid of the dark. His friend is alone and in need, though, so Otis takes a deep breath, counts to ten, and sets off on a different game of hide-and-seek.

From the critically-acclaimed illustrator of The Little Engine that Could,Of Thee I Sing, and Otis, the 2013 Read for the Record selection.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Wonder (RJ Palacio)

Goodreads summary:

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

Originally posted February 9, 2013:

Today we had a 2.5 hour drive to make, and so I got to spend a lot of time reading. Actually, we drove 2.5 hours to get to the funeral, then another hour to the cemetery, and an hour back home. I told my family we would have to leave the family festivities by 4 pm so I'd still get some daylight hours in for some more reading - but they told me I was out of luck. Still, I pretty much got 5 hours of reading in today. It was blissful.

I spent most of my reading time with August Pullman, the main character from Wonder. What an amazing book! I have read a lot of blogs where people rave about this book. I don't think they quite said enough about what a great story it is. It is one of the best books I've read in the past year, for sure.

Wonder is the story of August Pullman, a boy in Grade 5, who is starting public school for the first time. He has home schooled up until that point because he has had so many health issues. He was born with many facial deformities and has endured endless surgeries. He is not eager to start school, and kids aren't eager to have him around. Middle school is hard enough. When you have deformities, it is even harder.

My heart broke as I read the mean things other kids did to him. I cheered him on as he endured the trials. I cried, and I laughed.

The story is told from many people's perspectives: His sister, his friends, his non-friends, his sister's friends, his sister's boyfriend, and August, himself. It is brilliantly crafted. It, for sure, is a wonder!

....personal note: It was interesting to be reading of August's experiences, and then go to a family event. Maybe you don't have this in your family - but we have a few, um, shall we say, wing nuts in our family??! Funerals seem to be an interesting melting pot of people and I found myself shaking a finger at myself as I did my usual dance and duck to avoid some people in the family. I found myself wanting to be a little kinder. And, man, was it hard!

Favorite quote: Everyone should have a standing ovation once in their life.

I am giving August a standing ovation right now!

Great idea: There is a teacher in the book that has the kids learn "precepts". They are meaningful quotes. Each month there is a new precept. At the end of the month they write an essay about what the precept means. He also encourages kids to send him their precepts in the summer, and he promises to write back. I love that idea!

Re-read November 2015: I love this book. I'm re-reading as it was the choice for our book club this moth.

The way the author has told the story through different perspectives is brilliant. I could relate to each person as they told the story.

I finished this book on the bus with a bunch of my students. Nothing like trying to hold back the tears amongst a bunch of 8 year olds as I read.

I love this story. It is a great conversation starter.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Loch Mess Monster (Helen Lester)

Some of my students had heard of the Lochness Monster, so they thought the title was pretty humorous.

The scottish influence on the words were puzzling, but good fodder for discussion. The book has a glossary of Scottish terms. It also has an epilogue....great way to introduce those vocabulary words.

They thought the little monster was pretty cute.

Fun story!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister (Linda Ravin Lodding)

I wish I had read this book earlier in the day so we had more time to discuss it. I live a life like Ernestine. Many of us do. I would have been interested to hear more about what the kids in my class would say about how over-scheduled our lives get. It isn't really the gets that set up their over-scheduled lives.

...maybe this book really isn't for kids after all.

Goodreads Summary:

Ernestine is in over her head. Monday through Sunday, Ernestine’s week is packed with after-school lessons—tuba, knitting, sculpting, water ballet, yoga, yodeling, and karate. Overwhelmed and exhausted, Ernestine decides to take matters into her own hands and heads off to the park with her Nanny where she builds a fort, watches the clouds, and plays all kinds of unstructured and imaginative games. But when a teacher calls Ernestine's mom to report that she has not shown up for yodeling, her parents search everywhere until at last they hear their daughter's laughter coming from the park. Ernestine tells her parents what a wonderful afternoon she's had, and explains her plight, asking, "I like my lessons, but can't I stop some of them?" This saga hilariously captures the dilemma of the modern-day over-scheduled child in riotous color and absurd extremes. A delightful heroine, Ernestine will be sure to put “play” back on everyone’s agenda, demonstrating that in today’s overscheduled world, everyone needs the joy of play and the simple wonders of childhood. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore

This story makes me chuckle. I am reminded of so many kids I know when I read it.

This is one of those misunderstood girls...she just doesn't think like everyone else. It sometimes gets her in trouble.

After we read it, we got talking about funny things my students had done when they were younger. We decided to make our own book of things we're not allowed to do anymore. So fun!

Goodreads Summary:

This Parenting Magazine Best Book of the Year and Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year features a kid full of fun ideas. For example, in the morning, gluing her brother's bunny slippers to the floor sounds like a good plan. But now she's not allowed to use glue anymore. And what about when she shows Joey Whipple her underpants—they're only underpants, right? Turns out she's not allowed to do that again, either. And isn't broccoli the perfect gift for any brother? It's just too bad her parents don't think so. But she has the last laugh in this humerous picture book about not-so-great behavior. And don't miss the companion book to 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore: 11 Experiments that Failed, a zany exploration of the scientific method by everyone's favorite troublemaking protagonist.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Leo A Ghost Story (Mac Barnett)

My students loved this story. Many of them have imaginary friends. The idea that an imaginary friend might actually be real was a little mind-bending for them. Quickly following whether or not a pretend friend could be real was whether or not ghosts are real. In true Mac Barnett style, the book really captured them. It was a big hit. We're really looking forward to reading it to our reading buddies!

The fact that the little girl in the story can see the ghost because she believes reminded me of Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher. There's a lot to be said for believing!

You would like being friends with Leo. He likes to draw, he makes delicious snacks, and most people can't even see him. Because Leo is also a ghost. When a new family moves into his home and Leo's efforts to welcome them are misunderstood, Leo decides it is time to leave and see the world. That is how he meets Jane, a kid with a tremendous imagination and an open position for a worthy knight. That is how Leo and Jane become friends. And that is when their adventures begin. This charming tale of friendship—from two of the best young minds in picture books: the author of the Caldecott Honor–winning Extra Yarn and the illustrator of the Bologna Ragazzi Award–winning Josephine—is destined to become a modern classic that will delight readers for years to come.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Chester The Worldly Pig (Bill Peet)

This is a picture book that reads like a chapter book in that it is more suited to a mature child who can handle longer stories. The words in the story are challenging. The story is delightful. We had a lot of good laughs while we read this book.

Goodreads Summary:

Chester longs to be a performer in the circus, but the road to stardom is rocky until someone discovers Chester's true "worldliness."

Friday, October 23, 2015

Dave's Down-To-Earth Rock Shop (Stuart J. Murphy)

This was read to us by a guest teacher we had in for a Teacher's Pet presentation on Rocks and Minerals. This book is a great summary of what we learned in this unit. It touches on most of the concepts in our Grade 3 science unit.

Goodreads Summary:

Josh and Amy are learning everything about rocks from their friend Dave. And to organize their rock collection, they must practice the math skill of classification -- grouping objects by attributes such as color, shape, or size.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Caboose Who Got Loose (Bill Peet)

A great story of a caboose who is forced to live life in the fast lane when what she really wants is to enjoy peace and solitude with a good view. We talked about how some people like to be out and busy and with people all the time and how some people prefer time alone. One of my wise students reminded us that most people need a little bit of both.

You simply can't go wrong with Bill Peet. This book is in prose and some of the words/phrases were a little tricky for my class, but it was a good way to introduce them to something a little more challenging to read. I even noticed one child chose it as a book to read to his reading buddy later in the day.

I love Bill Peet!

Katy Caboose is tired of being last, and one day a freak accident allows her to realize her dream of peace and solitude.

A Night Divided (Jennifer Nielsen)

This is by the same author that wrote The False Prince trilogy.

I had never thought of what it was like when the Berlin wall went up. The author tells this story in a gripping way that teaches a lot about that time. It was very hard to put down.

I have recommended this to many students and many of them have said they are reading it and loving it.

Goodreads summary:

From New York Times bestselling author Jennifer A. Nielsen comes a stunning thriller about a girl who must escape to freedom after the Berlin Wall divides her family between east and west.

With the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family divided overnight. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can't help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.

But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf (Mark Teague)

My students are quite familiar with the idea of a story having different version since they do a lot of work on that in grade 2. They read different versions of Cinderella and then write their own story, applying it to places they study in Social Studies. They really enjoyed this version of The Three Little Pigs. The illustrations are bold and beautiful and it really captured their attention.

I thought it was interesting that the smartest pig - the one who built the house from bricks, was a girl in this version.

Goodreads summary:

Three little pigs, a somewhat bad wolf, sody-pop, chips, hay, mortar, bricks, and some huffing and puffing!

Award-winning author and illustrator Mark Teague tells his humorous version of "The Three Little Pigs" with a zany twist!

Three pigs spend their money on different things: potato chips, sody-pop, and building supplies. It comes as no surprise that a wolf is able to blow down the first two pigs' houses. When the wolf can't blow down the third pig's brick house, everyone comes together and the fun begins. The first two pigs give him potato chips and sody-pop, and the third pig makes everyone a healthy meal. Since only one pig has a house left, the other two pigs and the wolf move in with her. The somewhat bad wolf is no longer hungry.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Dinosaur vs School (Bob Shea)

Cute story, but too young for my Gr. 3 crowd.

Dinosaur is starting preschool today. ROAR! There are new friends to meet, dress-up outfits to wear, glitter and googly eyes to paste, musical instruments to play, and snacks to eat. What's not to like? But then, oh, no! It's Dinosaur vs. Clean-up Time! Fortunately, when friends work together, EVERYONE WINS! With all the bright colors, bold lines, and toddler-like exuberance that have made the previous Dinosaur vs. books irresistible, DINOSAUR VS. SCHOOL will both amuse and reassure anyone going off to school for the first time.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Dad Runs Away with the Circus (Etgar Keret)

This is just plain old silly - a good book for a Friday. Who ever heard of a dad running away to the circus. Some dads are crazy. This one definitely made us laugh!

Goodreads Summary:

"The circus is in town!" Dad roared.
"And we're all going to see it!"

Audrey and Zach are still half-asleep — and can't help stifling yawns — when Dad bursts in with his announcement. Dad is so excited, he starts practicing daring stunts before they even leave for the show. Under the big top, Dad's enthusiasm is downright embarrassing, and Audrey and Zach suspect it has something to do with the generation gap. But even they could never guess just how carried away their dad is going to get! With striking graphic artwork by one of Israel's top illustrators and comic-book artists — splendidly showcased in a double gatefold spread — an acclaimed Israeli author brings his talents to the world of picture books for the first time.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Sam's Pet Temper (Sangeeta Bhadra)

A really good way to teach children strategies for controlling their temper.

I was a little torn at first about the idea that "the temper" is a separate being from the child. I thought it might appear that it is something a child cannot control - but it seemed to be really thought provoking for my class. We don't have big temper issues in my class, but it was still a good read and provided for a good discussion.

Goodreads Summary:

The hero of this picture book, Sam, has to wait for everything on the playground one day, and this makes him mad. "He got madder and madder until he was the maddest he had ever been in his whole life." And then, suddenly, an unusual thing appears. It runs around, shoving and tripping and pinching and stomping, until all the other children have run away. "It was hanging upside down from the monkey bars, grinning at him. Sam had never seen anything like it before, but he knew what it was. It was a Temper." At first, having a pet Temper is fun. But before long, the Temper starts causing trouble for Sam. And eventually, Sam comes to the realization that his Temper is something he needs to learn to control. This funny but poignant title by Sangeeta Bhadra offers a perfect representation of just how frustrated and angry small children can get when circumstances in their lives make them feel helpless. Though never heavy-handed, Bhadra also manages to convey what the consequences can be when that anger takes over a child's behavior. The quirky yet stunning illustrations by Marion Arbona keep the emotional focus on the Temper, as a way to help children identify that their anger is not who they are. The emphasis on feelings makes this a terrific tie-in for character education lessons on self-discipline and taking responsibility for your actions, as well as on patience and perseverance when solving your own problems.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Boomer's Big Surprise (Constance W McGeorge)

Animals seem to teach stories oh so well! A wonderful discussion starter for when one is feeling left out.

Goodreads Summary:

Boomer knows something's up the day a shiny new bowl appears next to his, but imagine Boomer's surprise when he finds himself nose to nose with a new puppy! Just when Boomer thinks he's no longer top dog, he discovers there's room for two, and that the puppy is more than a new sibling—he's a new friend. Boomer's Big Surprise is filled with the same warmth and humor as the first two books in the Boomer series, and will have special appeal to any child facing the arrival of a new baby. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Nanny Fox (Georgie Adams and Selina Young)

Really, these are big concepts in this story. My class had a chuckle. We talked about how foxes are usually depicted in stories: Sneaky, mean and sly. This fox doesn't seem to follow the traditional family roles set out for him though. Sometimes some people just aren't like the rest of the people in their family. It can be hard when your family does things you just can't with with any more. In our class we did talk about how you don't have to be the same to be friends (foxes COULD be friends with hens, if only....) 

Arnold Fox, a young fox with a love for chickens, takes a job as nanny to Mrs. Buff Orpinton's brood of six chicks and proves his courage when his hungry siblings stop by one night for a chicken dinner.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Bears Don't Read (Emma Chichester Clark)

I love this bear! He isn't afraid to do things different from everyone around him. Something aches inside of him for books. I'm kind of a bear too, I'd say!

"His brothers and sisters never wondered about anything. They were perfectly happy chatting, fishing - doing the usual bear things - and telling the same old stories over and over again.
But George was bored. He didn't want to do the usual bear things anymore. He wanted other things. "But what?" he wondered."

I love how the people respond. They judge him and are afraid. However, one little girl isn't afraid of him. She's learning to read and teaches him to read.

This story reminded me of Kenny and the Dragon. It is good that some people see the good in others!

Goodreads Summary:

George isn't happy doing the usual bear things like chatting and fishing. But what else is there? Then one day, he finds a book beneath a tree and knows, more than anything, he wants to learn to read! But, arriving in town, George soon discovers that it's not easy to be a bear at school! If only he could find someone to teach him the alphabet and change his life forever. Perhaps a little girl called Clementine can help? 

Dragon's Extraordinary Egg (Debi Gliori)

Very well written. Captured my student's attention immensely. It was interesting to have a discussion after. The book doesn't use the word adoption, however, it came up in our discussion. Some kids figured the dragon must have been a penguin wearing a costume. Their experience told them penguins have penguins for parents. One boy in our class, however, knows about adoption and suggested that they could be adopted. We had a great discussion about what adoption means.

In this heartwarming story, a dragon in need of an egg finds an abandoned egg in need of a mommy. It seems like the perfect fit, but when that egg hatches, the little baby doesn't look like all the other dragons. In fact, he looks a lot like a penguin! Of course, his mommy loves him no matter what. But the other young dragons aren't so sure. Little do they know that their feathered friend's differences will save the day! Sometimes things happen for a reason . . . and some families are just meant to be together.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sneezenesia (Deb Lucke)

I chose this book because I have a cold. Also, when I read, my dog likes to lie on me, but if I sneeze, he runs away - no matter how hard I try to make it a little sneeze. Maybe I just don't have little sneezes.

My class was rather mesmerized by this book. It's hilarious and so easy to imagine all those things falling out of your brain, especially with some of the sneezes we hear around here!

Our favorite part was at the end when his mom wipes the long green thing from his nose - which is actually a dinosaur!


Once there was a boy who sneezed so hard, he forgot his own name. Then he sneezed again, and he forgot where he was, and who his mom was, and a whole bunch of other important stuff. Pretty soon he’d sneezed out everything he learned the entire year. ACHOO! . . . and spelling, math, and all the U.S. presidents came flying out of his nose. And things just got worse from there. . . .
     Humorous, understated text and outrageous, vividly colored illustrations tell how the boy gets everything he’s forgotten back into his head where it belongs, making for a tale that is truly sneezesational.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats (Jan-Philipp Sendker)

This book is a great story of trusting despite life being unjust. I found myself wanting to slow down and soak it all up. I loved the serenity of Tin Win and Mi Mi. I loved how even though their lives truly weren't fair, they accepted what came and were the best they could be in those situations.

This is a wonderful love story too. I was a little leery to read it because I don't like books about men who step out on their wives - but this story isn't that, even though it seems that way in the beginning.

I totally recommend this book. It would be a great book club book too.

A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats spans the decades between the 1950s and the present.  When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains.

Friday, October 2, 2015

John Jensen Feels Different (Henrik Hovland)

This book first caught my eye because of the name Jensen - my maiden name! And besides, why in the world would an alligator be named John Jensen. Looked cute - and it was.

My kids loved the alligator. The story has a message that it is okay to be different. The story is set in Norway. I haven't run into a lot of picture books set in Norway.

John Jensen, a crocodile, cannot quite understand why he feels so different from everyone else, but a kindly doctor reassures him that no one is exactly the same as anyone else.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mouse's First Night at Moonlight School (Simon Puttock)

The timing of this book was great. We had just read Angel Child Dragon Child and talked a lot about what it would be like to be the new kid at school. Mouse is the new "kid" at his school. His answer to dealing with his nervousness is to hide - perfectly logical!

I had to chuckle that the other two classmates are a cat and an owl - two animals that feed on mice. No wonder Mouse hid!

The teacher actually is a witch in the story. Mouse is hidden on most of the pages. It is a fun book to read.

Goodreads Summary:

—It's Mouse's first night at Miss Moon's Moonlight School, but Mouse is shy—too shy to even say hello. Luckily, with help from Miss Moon and her new friends Bat, Cat, and Owl, a game of hide-and-seek makes Mouse feel right at home.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mog the Forgetful Cat (Judith Kerr)

We liked the cat, Mog, and we enjoyed his forgetfulness. It made the kids chuckle. Again, some of the wording was pretty British and it was odd to my class. In the end, Mog saves the family from a burglar. Handy cat to have around!

A special 30th anniversary edition of the debut of Judith Kerr's Mog stories. Mog always seems to be in trouble because she is such a very forgetful cat. She forgets that she has a cat flap and she forgets when she has already eaten her supper. But one night, when an uninvited visitor turns up at the house, Mog's forgetfulness comes in very handy!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Tiger Who Came to Tea (Judith Kerr)

I would love to know more about how Judith Kerr comes up with her stories. These stories are funny and perfectly logical in the minds of children!

Some of the figures of speech in this book were a little different to us. They seemed quite British. We had a good laugh about buns (for some reason my children hadn't heard that word!) and we talked about why we sometimes call our bums buns! We also talked about how in England they have "tea" rather than dinner. It was an interesting introduction to a different culture.

While Sophie and her mother are sitting down to tea one afternoon, the doorbell rings. A big, furry, stripy tiger has come for tea...and sandwiches, and buns, and biscuits...and eats all the food in the house until there's nothing left to cook for Daddy's supper.
Judith Kerr's reassuring and funny story with just a hint of anarchy has been delighting children since its first publication thirty-five years ago. This modern classic has gone on to sell over three million copies worldwide, making it one of the most popular picture books for children ever written.
Author Biography: Judith Kerr was born in Berlin, the daughter of a distinguished German writer. She left Nazi Germany with her family in 1933 and fled across Europe, eventually settling in England. Years later she wrote about her experiences in her best-selling novel for middle-grade readers When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. She is also the author and illustrator of numerous picture books, including The Tiger Who Came to Tea, which was first published in 1968 and has since sold more than one million copies worldwide. She lives in England.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Crocodile Under the Bed (Judith Kerr)

Another Judith Kerr win! Judith Kerr's ability to tap into children's imagination is delightful. As we were reading this book, my students were horrified at first that the boy couldn't go to a birthday party. Truly unfair! They felt sad for him and you could see it in their faces. Then when the crocodile was under his bed they were a little bit scared. Those are dangerous animals. Then the crocodile took him to an even better party - of course! They loved the fun things that happened at the party. It seemed totally logical that a kid would end up at the King's party! In the end they all agreed that even though crocodiles are dangerous, they'd definitely keep this one!

A magical new classic in the making from the creator of the beloved favourite, The Tiger Who Came to Tea.
Once there was a little boy called Matty, and he was very sad…
From the creator of the iconic picture books The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Mog the Forgetful Cat, comes a brand new story about joy, parties… and crocodiles!
Matty is sick, and very sad because he’s too sick to go to the Queen’s birthday party! But when he gets an unexpected visitor, it seems that Matty might not miss out after all…

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Other Goose (Judith Kerr)

My students really felt for poor Katerina. They also chuckled at her silliness and enjoyed being smarter than her. Lovely story with a happy ending.

This book contains many characters, so maybe 3-5th grade. This book could lead into a cause/effect lesson, or simply things that happen accidentally can have good results, even though we may not realize it until later.

Katerina is sad because she's the only goose in town, but sometimes she sees another goose in the side of a shiny car. She thinks: One day that goose will come out. Then I'll no longer be the only goose on the pond. Suddenly one day . . . it does! Full-color illustrations.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

One Night at the Zoo (Judith Kerr)

This book is by the same author as the Great Granny Gang, which we loved. On Goodreads, there were a number of comments about the author. I wasn't familiar with her so I went and found a bunch of her books at the public library.

Really fun story. We have had stuffies in our classroom that some of us are SURE move when we're not looking, so the things the author writes that animals might do after the zoo closes makes perfect sense.

I didn't point out the number pattern, but my class noticed it right away. We talked about how it was a pattern increasing by one. We also liked the rhythm of the words and caught on to the pattern of words quite quickly.

Beautiful illustrations. We will really enjoy reading this book to our Reading Buddies.

So, what did the other animals do? You can count on them to astonish you! It's the beginning of an extraordinary night of wild antics, high spirits and unthinkable surprises from all the zoo animals, and still nobody knew --except of course, YOU!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Lunch Lady and the Picture Day Peril (Jarrett J Krosoczka)

Every week I hope to introduce a new author or series of books to my class since I have a number of kids who don't love reading yet. This week it is Lunch Lady to the rescue!! These books might be targeted to a slightly older crowd than Grade three, but I don't think it will matter. I know they'll love this series.

This is a hilarious story. A seemingly lovely photographer comes to the school for picture day - while at the same time everyone's face is breaking out like crazy. Lunch Lady has a funny feeling something is going on and looks into the matter. I had a good chuckle all the way through this book.

Goodread summary:

It's picture day at Thompson Brook, but the students are plagued by a freak acne epidemic. While the Breakfast Bunch scrambles to put their best faces forward, their hifalutin photographer raises Lunch Lady's eyebrows. She suspects the photographer may have an underhanded plan to break into the world of high fashion that puts the students in danger! Will Lunch Lady be able to storm the runway and stop the vogue rogue without blowing her cover?